With neither Israelis nor Palestinians present, diplomats in Paris have sought to lay the groundwork to rekindle a Middle East peace process. They called a two-state solution "the only way to achieve an enduring peace."
More than two dozen diplomats from the West and the Middle East agreed on a joint communique in Paris on Friday, calling for renewedIsraeli-Palestinian peace talks based on the principle of a two-state solution
that was the basis of the 1993 Oslo Accord.
The diplomats, which included US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon agreed "that a negotiated two-state solution is the only way to achieve an enduring peace, with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security."
They are alarmed that actions on the ground, in particular continued acts of violence and ongoing settlement activity, are imperiling the prospects for a two-state solution," the joint text also said.
That two-state solution was supposed to be implemented by 1998 under the terms of the original Oslo Accord.
Palestinians welcome talks, in friendly France
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said at the talks that taking action urgently was essential, saying the world could not "fold its arms and do nothing." By the standards of NATO members, France has typically been more sympathetic to the Palestinians' position.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) welcomed the talks in Paris, albeit taking the opportunity to snipe at Israel in the process.
"The Paris meeting is a very significant step and its message is clear: if Israel is allowed to continue its colonization and apartheid policies in occupied Palestine, the future will be for more extremism and bloodshed rather than co-existence and peace," PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat said.
Prior to the talksthe Israeli government rejected the French peace initiative,
instead inviting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for one-on-one talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Dore Gold, the director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, predicted on Thursday that the Paris conference would "completely fail" and added that the "only way to make peace" was through direct talks.
'Status quo is not sustainable'
According to the negotiators' joint statement, they agreed "that the status quo is not sustainable, and stressed the importance of both sides demonstrating, with policies and actions, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution in order to rebuild trust and create the conditions for fully ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and resolving all permanent status issues through direct negotiations based on (UN) resolutions."
Israel continues to build settlements in the occupied West Bank, andPalestinians have taken to low-grade attacks on Israeli security officials
- usually in the form of knife attacks that often result in the attacker being shot dead by security officers.
Bilateral negotiations have been in the deep freeze since Netanyahu came to power in 2009. His predecessor, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, held serious negotiations with Abbas in 2008, but then Olmert was forced from office in a corruption scandal. US Secretary Kerry tried to jumpstart talks in 2013, but that attempt did not last a year.
bik/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP)